What You Should Focus On Before Making New Year’s Resolutions

Incoming!! 2020 New Year’s Resolutions

Today is December 23rd meaning you have exactly 8 days until 2020 arrives and you set out to do something that will likely fail if statistics are any indication.

Reports suggest that over 75% of New Year’s Resolutions are abandoned within a couple of months. Speaking for myself, that is just about right.

Goal Setting?

I’ve set goals. I am a goals type of guy. BHAG. SMART. Etc. They are all useful frameworks for goal-setting.

If you are anything like me, then the problem is not with your goal setting. It is with your goal achieving.

Maybe you nodded in agreement with that statement.

Unfortunately, I would argue against the statement entirely. If you believe it, then maybe I can change your mind.

Goal Problems

There are some serious problems with focusing on goals. I discovered this myself a few years ago when I struggled to achieve my goals year after year trying many different approaches. Beyond that, I found the whole goal setting process to drain the joy from the actual achievement of stated goals. In the end, it felt like just checking a box.

I recently started reading a book by James Clear titled Atomic Habits. He hits the nail on the head identifying some key problems with goals:

  1. Winners and losers have the same goals.
  2. Achieving a goal is only a momentary change.
  3. Goals restrict your happiness.
  4. Goals are at odds with long-term progress.

(For more on this, follow this link: https://jamesclear.com/goals-systems)

What To Focus On

If not goals then what should you focus on?


My interest in understanding habits was ignited a few years ago after reading Charles Duhigg’s book titled The Power of Habit.  Duhigg defines a habit as “a choice that we deliberately make at some point, and then stop thinking about, but continue doing, often every day.”

The good thing about habits is they are malleable, however they require consistent effort and a strategy… until they don’t. The beauty of habits is you can make them work for you. You can automatically make a decision that is working for you.

Pretty neat right?

Habits and Identity

If I am honest with myself, my past goals came from the identity that I wanted for myself. They are tied to a definition of success in various areas of my life that all come back to WHO I want to be. Hear me say this, this is not a bad thing. Many of my goals were faith and family oriented. Good, meaningful, and enduring goals.

However the results of this approach to change and/or achievement were mixed at best if not downright failure.

The better way forward is based on a relationship between your identity, the person you WANT to become and your habits, what you actually DO.


Screen Shot 2019-12-23 at 4.16.51 PM

Habits have an interesting relationship with identity. They are mutually reinforcing.

What you do determines who you are and the cycle continues as who you are impacts what you do. The only way to experience lasting behavioral change is for your identity to change resulting in becoming something different.

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”


Where do I even begin? How do I this?

Some of this you will have to figure out for yourself. I highly recommend reading Atomic Habits or at least watching some videos of James Clear discussing this material on YouTube or various podcasts he has appeared on.

The thing for me that has helped is asking myself identity related questions.

Is ________ decision a vote for this ________ person I want to become?

Is the decision to exercise a vote for the healthy person I wish to become?

Is the decision to mentor someone a vote for the type of impactful relationships I wish to have?

Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes the answer is no.  These questions generate awareness and personal accountability and for me that is sometimes enough to change my behavior in that moment.

Cast enough votes for the person you wish to become, and eventually you will!

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